Duke Hoops: Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange reviews the year to date and looks forward to the upcoming tests for Duke.

This next stage of the season might take time for adjustments for the Blue Devils. The most glaring challenges could come on offense.

Duke has averaged 70.5 points in two Atlantic Coast Conference outings compared to a season-long mark of nearly 85 points per game.

"When they're young," coach Mike Krzyzewski said, "there's an adjustment period (to conference play)."

The Blue Devils have experienced that. The points are tough to come by, so it's extra important what Duke has done during the first couple of months to establish a tone defensively.

Duke also wears a new label this season as conference favorite, something that was mostly held by North Carolina in recent years although the Blue Devils were generally close behind.

Even in a conference-opening victory against Clemson, the strain it took to score during some junctures was evident compared to some pre-conference outings.

"Conference play is no joke," senior forward Lance Thomas said.


--Although it's not a full sampling, Duke doesn't hold an overwhelming edge in free throws compared to its opponents. That used to be a staple for the Blue Devils, but through 15 games, Duke has attempted 341 free throws and its opponents have taken 308. That's only an average of two free throws per game more for Duke than its foes. That became an issue for the Blue Devils in Saturday's loss at Georgia Tech, which went 22-for-28 on foul shots compared to Duke's 9-for-14 on free throws.

--Duke's Jon Scheyer certainly made the most of a homecoming game in Chicago. He's from nearby Northbrook, Ill, and his 31 points in a victory against Iowa State were part of a special night for him when the teams met at the United Center. Scheyer made four 3-pointers in the game, marking his third game in a row with at least three 3s.

ON THE SPOT: Duke has gone through some stretches of shaky 3-point shooting and the most noticeable trouble spot is coming from F Kyle Singler. He's hitting only 34.7 percent of his attempts. He's fourth on the team with 25 made 3-pointers, but second with 72 attempts. It might be something the Blue Devils have to learn to live with because he shot a combined 36.4 percent on 3-pointers during his first two seasons. The Blue Devils say they're committed to keeping him on the perimeter, but don't be surprised if they find ways for him to perk up offensively by re-establishing him closer to the basket as well.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "They were tougher than us." -- G Jon Scheyer after the loss to Georgia Tech, which became the third team to outrebound the Blue Devils this season. Duke is 1-2 in those games when it has less rebounds than its opponent.


SEASON RECAP: The Blue Devils erased some recent misery against Clemson by opening the ACC portion of their schedule with a convincing victory. After defeating Iowa State, it was back to ACC competition and another nationally ranked opponent with a trip to Georgia Tech. This time, Duke fell short and has yet to win in two tries this season on an opponents' court.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- G Jon Scheyer, G Nolan Smith, C Miles Plumlee, F Kyle Singler, F Lance Thomas. Key Subs -- G Andre Dawkins, F Mason Plumlee, C Brian Zoubek, F Ryan Kelly.


  • Duke 74 Clemson 53
  • Duke 86, Iowa State 65
  • Georgia Tech 71, Duke 67

  • Boston College, Wednesday, Jan. 13
  • Wake Forest, Sunday, Jan. 17
  • at N.C. State, Wednesday, Jan. 20
  • at Clemson, Saturday, Jan. 23
  • Florida State, Wednesday, Jan. 27

IN FOCUS: The Blue Devils play back-to-back home games and it will be crucial for them to find their footing. The game against Boston College might be different in the sense that meetings with the Eagles in past years often meant the Blue Devils had to deal with a more physical opponent. This time, the Blue Devils should hold that tag. Then the game against Wake Forest will be a matchup where Duke's height might not be so impressive because the Demon Deacons can send out a lineup that can compete with Duke's height.


--F Lance Thomas fouled out for the third time this season in the game at Georgia Tech. He has committed 50 fouls, or more than three per game. That's a significant number considering that he averages about 23 minutes per game. He played only 14 minutes in the Georgia Tech game.

--F Miles Plumlee had dunks on 18 of his first 44 field goals this season. So that accounts for 36 of his first 107 points, or more than one-third of his scoring.

--G Nolan Smith has raised his scoring average by almost 10 points per game as the season's midway point approaches. That's the best improvement for any ACC players this season. He's checking in with 17.8 points per game. At his current rate, it will be the biggest scoring improvement from one season to the next for a Duke player in 14 years since Chris Collins, now an assistant coach for the team, bolstered his average by 12.38 points per game.

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